Current Affairs

Much ado about…wait, what?

Unless you’ve been in space, or travelling without net access, you’re likely to have come across just some of the fallout from “Elevatorgate”. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell, with copious links. Skepchick Rebecca Watson was approached by a guy in Dublin following an atheist conference, and later spoke about it in a video, saying that he shouldn’t have done that. And then the world exploded. Blogs appeared everywhere, either to defending or persecuting, and on Twitter, occasionally things got downright ugly. And then Richard Dawkins commented on one of these blogs, and things got a little more crazy again, culminating in a final post which, confusingly, aims to outline athiest pick-ups to prevent further snafus.

If you’ve opened every link up there, I commend you for your commitment to information, and indeed, for your patience. There’s a lot to read there, and in my opinion, an awful lot of it is pretty tough to swallow. Unfortunately, an imaginary dichotomy appears to have sprung up, and throughout the land, people are being broadly classified as either “feminist, and therefore supportive and helpful and likely, a male apologist” or “anti-skepchick and therefore pro-rape, sleazy, and generally a bad person”. This is primarily what I would like to challenge, and hopefully, lay to rest for at least some of my readers.

I don’t often focus on myself in these blogs, but in this instance, I think that a little context would be valuable. I work as a programmer, having received a degree in Computer Science and Biology, and in my spare time, I train in a number of styles of martial arts. I also like to game (tabletop RPGs and video gaming). It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that I often come across stereotypes relating to women – after all, I received my degree in a class composed almost entirely of men, I work in a male dominated field, and the martial arts that I do tend not to attract many female participants. In short, I’m a woman in a man’s world. With all of the above in mind, it may surprise some of you to learn that I don’t consider myself a feminist. In fact, I often find myself possessing very little patience for the feminists of today.

I’m a “modern woman” who just doesn’t agree with modern feminism, and it’s a terribly awkward position to be in. I know that, as a woman, I’m still more likely to be paid less for the same work, and less likely to be promoted to senior management positions. I know that, as a female martial artist, I’m more likely to be regarded as someone who received their grade simply because they’re a girl. And while I don’t think that this is right, or ideal, I also don’t think that we’re going the right way about changing that.

Feminism isn’t supposed to be about the superiority of the “fairer” sex, it’s supposed to be about equality between both sexes, and with that, there has to follow a little give-and-take. There are so many places where, even in this day and age, it is a struggle to be a woman; woman are routinely abused, denied rights, and subjected to treatment that is not handed out fairly or evenly. This, I can’t condone, and I don’t believe that anyone should. There are plenty of “first world problems” too, such as pay and promotion disparities, and these too, should not be allowed. I just don’t believe that a man asking to spend time with a woman, and then saying “ok” when she refuses, is in the same league as the systematic abuse perpetrated in many countries on a daily basis. Perhaps it might make you feel uncomfortable if you’re not attracted to the person, but that’s not a feminist issue, it’s a personal one.

You can’t simultaneously demand equality, and then also demand different treatment because you are a woman. Equality should mean equality on all fronts, which should mean that men and women are free to express their desires, and men and women are free to say yes or no. And as long as no crime occurs (i.e. sexual assault after a clear refusal), then that really should be the end of it.

I have believed for some time that modern feminism isn’t fighting for the things I believe in. Instead, it’s fighting for something beyond equality, where women are untouchable, and every conflict is a sexist issue. It is such a hot topic that any man saying disagreeing with the majority feminist viewpoint risks being publicly named and shamed in the manner of a sex offender. Much of this behaviour happened on twitter in the last week or two, and frankly, it’s ridiculous. The fact that I’m a women doesn’t change the way I deal with the various issues I blog about, or my beliefs. I’m female, but I won’t treat being female like it’s something that should give me carte blanche, or something that should change the way I live my life.

I am lucky enough to live in a corner of the world where, for the most part, being a woman isn’t a big deal. I won’t look for sexist issues where they don’t exist, and I won’t add gravitas to otherwise unimportant happenings by tacking the word “feminism” onto them; especially when so many women do not enjoy the many freedoms that I take for granted. I’m not a feminist. I’m just a programmer, a martial artist, a blogger, a scientist, and a skeptic. I also happen to be female.